Owner, Mr Chong Suan and his mother started Chuan Ji as a home business in 2013 before opening a physical store at Macpherson Mall in 2017. To support his mother in managing the business, Mr Chong made the decision to leave his day job as an engineer. The 94-year-old recipe Chuan Ji uses for its Su Yan Bing, (known as the Hainanese mooncakes) belongs to Mdm Nam Tong Lee.. It was no surprise that Chuan Ji’s pastries were well received by locals who missed this taste of nostalgia, especially the Hainanese community. The popularity of Chuan Ji’s mooncakes extends beyond Singapore. During the mooncake festival, Mr Chong receives orders from countries such as Taiwan and Malaysia. This made Mr Chong realise the importance of this business in keeping the Hainanese heritage and culture alive and prevent it from vanishing in Singapore.
The Hainanese mooncake appears to be rather small, and it is hard to believe that a total of 13 ingredients goes into it! The preparation process of making the mooncake, such as frying the shallots and grinding the kumquat peels, was described as tedious and extensive. A lot of time and effort goes into baking the Hainanese mooncakes!
Mr Chong describes Chuan Ji’s Hainanese mooncake as an “acquired taste”. The mooncakes allow us first to taste a hint of sweetness from the kumquat peels, followed by a tinge of saltiness from the fried shallots, and ends off with a peppery aftertaste. Because of its unique taste, most people would find themselves going back for a second piece to grasp the mix flavours they experienced. While these mooncakes are known to be best paired with coffee, Mr Chong mentioned that it goes well with red wine too – fancy!
When Mr Chong and his mother started Chuan Ji Bakery during the Mid-Autumn festival in 2017, they only had one item on their menu – the Su Yan Bing, Hainanese mooncake. To reach out to more customers, Chuan Ji is now a bakery and café where customers could come to have tea or a meal as well. Over time, more items were added to their menu such as the pork chop and beef stew, made from traditional Hainanese recipes by Mr Chong’s mother. Additionally, to cater to the health-conscious individuals, Mr Chong uses 100% peanut oil to replace pork lard in the mooncakes today. He also added more kumquat peels to increase its fragrance and has successfully tweaked the original recipe to suit the taste buds of locals.
Mr Chong also shared his hopes for the future – to move to a more accessible location, expand his business locally, and bring their pastries beyond the shores of Singapore. It is his desire for Singaporeans to appreciate the rich Hainanese heritage and for Chuan Ji’s pastries to become a “must-buy” whenever tourists visit Singapore.